Tag Archives: chicken raising

Graupel and wind

Winter arrived again yesterday.  We had been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, lots of rain, and I feared for the garlic and asparagus mulched over in the garden.  The garlic has sprouted some, but I know from experience that it will be okay.  Some cloves might be a bit smaller, but it will still form.  The asparagus, I am really worried about.  This will be year 3.  The year I can actually expect to harvest some of the delightful spears, but the crowns won’t survive if they sprout and then freeze.

Yesterday was sunny off and on and the temperature dropped more than 20ºf between the time I dropped grandson at his bus and sunset yesterday.  More drop occurred during the night and though it isn’t as cold as a few weeks ago, today we have mountain snow showers and high wind, serious wind chill.

The chickens came out to scratch for their grain that was tossed on the ground and all went back in the coop.  Too cold and windy for their preference.  I don’t blame them, I don’t want to be out in it either.

When I dropped granddaughter off at preschool, I stopped and bought more grain to make chicken food, I was nearly out. It was cold in the garage while I worked on that and as I added more straw to their coop to help keep them warm.

Later, we picked granddaughter up from preschool, bought a bowl of soup for lunch, picked up a book I had reserved at the library, mailed a box of yarn to a charity and came home.  Cuddled in my chair with knitting, a book, and watching it snow, I knew that I would have to go out again in a few minutes to pick grandson up from school.  Back home from that, I don’t plan to venture out again.  A cup of tea, my stress free chair, maybe a blanket and I will stay put until time to cook dinner.  Even though I don’t want to go outside again,  the chickens will need some scratch, their pop door closed, and whatever number of eggs they laid today collected.  I guess that means yet another venture into the cold.


The next couple of days are expected to be even colder.  Maybe the wind will at least die down.


The iris and jonquils think it is spring.

Abysmal Day

It blew gales, the rain coming from all directions at once, whipping around the house, whistling and shaking screens.


The driveway looked like a river, culminating in a pond in front of one of the garage doors,


And created a new, but temporary creek between the house and the gardens.


Actually this is what is supposed to happen, though the pond in front of the garage door shouldn’t.  That is the result of the grands digging there where the softer soil has washed down the edge of the driveway.

When the rain quits and before it freezes, the tractor will have to be driven up to clean the culvert on the uphill side of our driveway.  The crushed gravel has washed down across the road again and about half filled the ditch.  Maybe a tractor bucket or two of that will be dumped and smoothed in front of that door. The design of the garage is raised enough that this water does not come in, but it is a mess to get to the cars.

The chicken coop was opened, but their food was put inside.  They didn’t venture out until the heaviest rainfall slowed.  I could hear Mr. Croak out there voicing his displeasure.  The high temperature for the day occurred early and though through Wednesday, it will still be mild, the rain should finally quit and a bit of drying out to occur before the cold arrives on Thursday.  Wednesday night’s low will be Thursday’s high and winter will return to the mountains.

Olio – November 7, 2015

Six batches of soap made for the December Holiday Market.


Four cut and curing.  Two are cocooned until tomorrow.  After much discussion with others and self arguing, I decided to have my 4 signature unscented soaps; Coffee Scrub, Jasmine Green Tea, Lavender Bud Oatmeal, and Rosemary Oat.  With 5 scented soaps settled on are Lavender, Winter Mint, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, Mountain Man, and Tree Hugger.

To simplify the lotion bars and to try to make pairings easier, there will be Lavender, Rosemary, unscented, Mountain Man, Bergamot Ylang Ylang, and Tree Hugger.

As the beard oils are also Mountain Man and Tree Hugger, gift sets can be assembled for the Market.  K and I took a trip to Michael’s and found some small boxes to facilitate making sample gift sets.

I recently went out for breakfast with a friend and she introduced me to an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal essential oil blend in a carrier oil that she had been given by her SIL.  Later when I was talking to my daughter, she knew the oil by the name I gave her and another name from a Therapeutic essential oil company.  Figuring out the component oils was fairly easy and coming up with my own blend was not too difficult.  This oil blend carries with it a tale called the Legend of the Four Thieves.  After reading many versions of this tale, I decided to come up with my own summary variation and have printed little scrolls of the legend with the uses of the topical oil to attach to each little 1 ounce bottle that I have prepared.  Thinking that a one ounce bottle with a dropper wasn’t a very good way to carry it with you, some of the oil mixture was blended with a carrier oil and a bit of beeswax to create salve in one of the little screw lid tins as well.


I await my shipment of more tins to be able to make a supply to add to the wares going to the market next weekend.  Our Farmers’ Market is mostly vendors of Organic produce or pasture raised meat, so I am hoping that adding these two products to the Comfrey Salve and Biker Bum Balm will be items that are successful with the crunchy crowd that frequents it.

My little natural first aid kit that I carry in my shoulder bag now has one more item in it.

Two nights ago, K and I moved two beat up hens and two young roosters to the cull pen with the meat birds that are destined for freezer camp next weekend.  Last night, Mountaingdad and I went out on a date night and K locked the birds up after dark when their family came in from getting pizza.  At least she thought everyone was locked up.  This morning, I found the remains of both hens and one young rooster outside the cull coop but inside the run.  There is a 4 foot fence around the run, a secured gate at the end and no evidence that anything dug in, so I’m not sure what got them, but it had to be able to go over the fence and get back out after eating.  Tomorrow after today’s rain ends, I will attempt to make the electric fence hot again, strung along the top of the runs and around the back of the cull coop near the ground.  Whatever it was did not get into the coop, so the birds must have been hunkered down somewhere in the run.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been knitting a shawl for a cousin.  It was finished last weekend.  Earlier this week, I got the ends woven in, washed and blocked.  It took forever to dry as it is a cotton yarn that she picked.  The package was mailed off and she received it today.  She is delighted with it.


I hope I get a photo of it being worn.

And Now There Are Six

The morning check of Mamma Hen revealed she now has 6 chicks.


They are curious little fuzz balls and peek out whenever they hear me messing with the door of the chicken tractor.  There are still 4 eggs under the hen and I will leave them for another day, but then remove them if there is no sign of hatching as all ten eggs were layed in a two day period and placed under Momma over a two day period.  The horizontal board across the lower edge of the box was installed to help hold the hay in, and the box is raised off the ground on 1 x 2’s and that has proven to be too much for the curious little chicks to get back in if they venture out.  This afternoon, I found 4 of them out of the box trying to get back in, Momma Hen trying to keep the other 2 in while sitting on the remaining eggs and fretting because she couldn’t get her babies back in the box.  My solution was to flip the box upside down so it sits on the ground and has no retaining edge at least until they can hop back up over the edge.  The grands each got to hold a chick while Daughter held Momma and the remaining chicks so I could flip the box and put the food and water closer to Momma.  The lack of the edge is going to make it more difficult for her to hold her nest together, but once she no longer has eggs to sit, she will start moving off the nest with the chicks and teaching them the ropes.

The middles, the now almost 13 week old Americaunas now live in the coop with the Buffys.  When allowed to free range, the Buffys wander all over the yard, the middles stay near the fenced area, wandering around the outside their former enclosure and the outer edges of the garden.  When penned in with the Buffys to let the dogs have outside time, three of them fly over the fence to get away from the Buffys.  The fourth one, the one Daughter named Midnight because of the darker black, blue and white coloration is half again larger can’t get over the fence and I am becoming more and more sure that she is a cockrell, not a pullet though they were purchased from a hatchery as all pullets.  If that is the case, Midnight will end up in freezer camp come fall.  I have no room for two roosters, nor do I want to worry about which fellow fertilized the eggs that go under broody moms as I still want to keep my flock pure, but enjoy the colored eggs.  When I had an Olive egger last year, she could clear the fence as well, even after I clipped her wings.  I am toying with the idea of making the chicken pens out of the 6 foot high dog runs with tops on them for predator protection and height to prevent escape.  As the flock is allowed freedom during most of the day, the pens would as now, just be used in foul weather or when we are away and neighbors are responsible for them.  The dog run panels would be easier to erect than to try to sink tall posts in our rocky soil.

Have any of you had experience with Americaunas and know how flight worthy they are or had experience building a pen with dog panels?

Olio – September 10, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

At times I consider whether I should just rename my blog Olio as most posts fly all over the place.  It is only mid morning on a day that the weather prognosticators said would be mostly sunny and dry, but instead it is thickly overcast and too humid again to paint or stain.  The grass too wet with dew to mow.  This isn’t to say that the morning has been idle, no instead a load of laundry has been folded, Grand #1’s bed remade from his weekend visit; another load of laundry washed and currently drying; the chicken coop refreshed with a turn of the old hay and an addition of new hay; the meaties chicken tractor given a good layer of hay in the bottom as it is currently more or less permanently set at the end of the 6 foot wide run to contain the 5 week old chickies and it was beginning to not smell so pleasant.  Another huge bucket of tomatoes have been harvested, though I haven’t begun to process them yet, as I can’t decide what this batch will become, probably just plain diced tomatoes.  Just in the last couple of days, the tomato vines have begun to fade.


There are still plenty of tomatoes to harvest, but this is a signal of the end of the summer growing season.  This morning, the spent cucumber vines were pulled and tossed to the chickens to peck at the last few cukes and the bugs on the vines.  Each year I begin the season faithfully pinching suckers from the tomato plants and trying to contain the branches within the cages and by this time each year, the branches have fallen over and through the cages and the plants look pitiful.  Perhaps next year I will use strong stakes instead of cages and tie the plants up as they grow taller, being more faithful about leaving only one main stem.  Next year, they will have the rich soil of the compost bins as we remove the wood from them this winter to expand the garden and create a more reasonably sized compost bin in a new location.  So much of the stuff that used to go into the compost, now goes to the chickens and their bedding becomes the compost, so having the bin near the coop door on the edge of the garden would make more sense.  That area is where I planted the Buttercup squash, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes this year and between them and my weeding efforts, the bin have remained fairly weed free this summer.


The squash have spread over the woodpile, over to the vegetable garden, into the chicken run and up the hill past the hay bales and out of the electric fence.  Many of the huge leaves have burn marks across them and cause the electric fence to pop as they touch it.  Yesterday as I mowed, with the fence off, I snapped off the leaves touching the fence.  I know that one day soon, I will begin to see those vines fading like the tomato vines.  The peppers are loving the cooler weather and are blooming and producing new peppers daily.  The summer squash are mostly done.  It is now a time for greens and a few radishes and turnips.

As I sit here waiting for the inspiration to can or the grass to dry for mowing, I am enjoying one of the only two magazines to which I subscribe.  The magazine is Taproot, no advertising, full of wonderful art, recipes, articles about back to a simpler time of producing your own food, making your own clothes, growing your own animals and knowing from where your goods come.  If you haven’t ever seen an issue, you should seek one out.


Each issue has a theme and each is wonderful to savor each word and save for future reference.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.


Olio – September 5, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things.

The Rainbow Ranger chicks have exceeded 2 pounds each at 4 1/2 weeks, far outgrowing anything we have to use as a brooder. They are getting feisty with each other, chest bumping and pecking. They are mostly feathered and it is still warm to hot during the days and mild at night. They were requiring twice daily brooder clean out, had gone for a week without supplemental heat in the garage, so a decision was made today to relocate them to the auxiliary pen, confined to the chicken ark. We did concede to put a tarp over the sides and will keep our fingers crossed that we don’t lose them now. Again I vow to let my hens do the work of raising chicks from now on or we are going to have to build a bigger outdoor brooder with electricity so we can put the heat lamp in it.
The March hatched Buff Orpington pullets are almost all laying finally. We are getting 8 or 9 eggs a day and thoroughly enjoying having them again.
Between canning tomatoes and cleaning chicks, I have found time to finish my Hitchhiker scarf.


And spin and ply 383 yards of Merino wool into an interesting DK weight yarn.


Now I need to decide whether to sell it, or create something with it.
When we had a cool evening two weeks ago, I pulled out my Elise sweater I knit last year and determined that it pulled at my shoulders because it is just a bit too small for me.





I don’t have anymore of the yarn, nor do I want to reknit it as I have two other sweaters currently on needles and they are both shades of blue or teal, so I am trying to decide it’s fate.  My options are to try to sell this hand knit sweater for little more than the cost of the yarn, to try to trade it for spinning fiber, or determine if there is a relative smaller than I that would like to have a hand knit sweater that has to be hand washed.

Last weekend, I broke my second tooth of the summer.  The first required a crown and that tooth still hasn’t been finished, a temporary crown in place until mid week.  When I called the dentist, they were able to get me in yesterday and fortunately this one only needed a filling repair for now.  Being a molar, it likely will eventually need a crown as well.  I have 6 already and lost one crowned tooth because of repeated gum infections between it and the adjacent tooth.  I hope that with dental repairs and care, I will retain most of my teeth as my 91 year old father has.

It has been a good week and we continue to love our life on our mountain farm.


Olio – August 23, 2014

A few days ago in the pouring rain, we pressure washed the deck and porch in preparation for resurfacing them with one of the new deck resurface products.  As the outdoor cats often settle on the front porch and have their supplemental food on that porch, it was all moved.  One of the garage doors was open and the dog crate that is used to move the cats to the vet for rabies shots, used to transport chicks when they are purchased locally, but otherwise stored in the garage was sitting on the floor.  We prepared to leave to buy the deck resurface paint and went to close the garage door.  This is what we found. . .


This guy is our sickly male who is about 5 years old, much older than we were led to believe that he would live as he was born with Feline Aids before we rescued him.  The healthy female bolted for the barn as soon as the powerwasher was started.  I would give him access to stay there, but the 2 week old Rainbow Ranger chicks are in the brooder in the garage.  There is an old window screen over the top, but that wouldn’t stop a dedicated cat.


In spite of the rain, or maybe because of it, we have had some spectacular sunsets.  We would love to get the decks painted, but the forecast calls for one more day of rain before we finally get a period of dry days, hopefully enough to get the job done.

Tonight as I surveyed the refrigerator for dinner, I remembered about a quart of beef stew made earlier in the week and not wanting another meal of just stew, I added some vegetables and a crust and made one of my favorite comfort foods, pot pie.  Usually I make chicken or turkey pot pie, but the beef stew was just too tempting.

Broody Girl finally gave up her empty nest sit, but she still hasn’t begun to lay.  We are getting 3 eggs most days from the 13 hens and pullets.  Hopefully, we will start seeing more eggs soon.  The pullet eggs are getting larger, but as the only laying hen’s eggs are speckled, I can still distinguish who is laying.  I need at least 3 extra dozen a week to break even on their feed, since we are also feeding 15 Rainbow Ranger chicks.  The chicks are rapidly outgrowing the water tank we use as a brooder.  I am at a loss about what to do with them.  They are only 2 weeks old and still need a heat source.  The chicken tractor is hardware cloth on the lower half and I can’t get power out to it or I would consider putting plastic sheeting on the lower half and moving them there.  If any of my readers have good brooder pen idea for 15 rapidly growing meat chicks, I would love some ideas.

Most Saturday mornings, though not for the past few weeks, we travel into town, enjoy breakfast at Joe’s Diner, a local landmark then wander the Farmers’ Market for goodies.  Today we were able to get potatoes, onions, carrots, and green beans (ours are still not producing).  Some beef and pork from our favorite meat farmers and flowers for the table were scored as well.  It is such a pleasure to visit on Saturday mornings and chat with friends, pet pups and supply with goodies we aren’t producing. Today was a bit crazy in town as this week has been move in week at the University and the town is bursting with new students and parents who are bringing or returning them to school.  The summer of being able to eat at the local restaurants without a wait is over until Winter Break, but the energy they bring to the town is worth that inconvenience.

We love life on our mountain farm.

Chooks and cooks

The middles are now 13 weeks old and the injured one seems to be recovering and was returned to the coop today with supervision to see if the others would leave her alone and they accepted her right back into the flock.  Her injuries are healing and her feathers cover the injuries, so I think all will be well.

Since I lost one and have decided that the Olive egger will be culled in July, I returned to the farm where the rest of my Buffs have come from and purchased 3 pullets that are 15 weeks old.  That hopefully will give me 14 egg layers by late July.  If I keep Cogburn, my flock will be 15 Buff Orpingtons and will be a self sustaining flock as broody hens will be allowed to raise chicks for replacements and meat in future years.


All of my Buffs have come from the same farm, a year ago, 13 weeks ago and tonight.  After talking with the breeder, I think that I can put the new girls in the coop tonight and let them all wake up together tomorrow.  There are only two adults in the coop and they are as docile as the middles.

The Breeder lives in Floyd County, and the town of the Floyd has the best pizza restaurant around.  The Dogtown Roadhouse has specialty wood fired thin crust pizza and many choices of microbrews.  We left in time to enjoy our dinner there first with their Kitchen sink pizza and each having a different microbrew.  The perfect end to a great week.

Life is an adventure on our mountain farm.

The King, the Queen, and the Evil Keeper


“I am the King of all Buff Orpingtons,” says he as he struts around his farm yard, bold and proud.  “I would protect my subjects with my life.”

In reality, he is kind of a “chicken” so to speak.  When trouble threatens, he is generally one of the first to flee the scene.  He has even been known to dart into the garage and hide behind the ladders, while his ladies fend for themselves in the yard.  He generally tolerates the Evil Keeper, as he must perceive her.  She does bring his court food and water, but also, she separated his kingdom with a tall wall that he can see through, but can’t breech.  When his kingdom was divided, the Evil Keeper put him on one side of the wall and left his Queen on the other side.  How cruel could she be?


“I am the self proclaimed Queen,” says she.  “No one in the kingdom lays such beautiful eggs as I.  When the Evil Keeper erected the wall to divide our kingdom, she placed me in charge of half and my King in charge of the other half.  Though I adore being in charge of all of the other Buff Orpingtons, including those terrible teenagers, who I must spend too much of my time putting in their place, I missed my King.”


“The Evil Keeper does not realize how sly and cunning I am.  Each day when she would check on us and bring us treats, I would be visiting the other side of the wall with my King.  Some nights I would fly back to bed with my subjects and to torment the teenagers, other nights I would choose to stay in the smaller Palace with King Cogburn and his ladies in waiting.  My behavior baffles the Evil Keeper as she never knows where she may find me or where I may lay my beautiful olive eggs.  Sometimes I hide them from her in odd places.  One night recently, when I decided to spend the night in his half of the kingdom, she grabbed me from my throne, took a sharp implement and sheared my flight feathers from one of my wings.  She is such a horrible keeper.  Then she put me in the castle with my two grown subjects and all of those noisy teenagers.  They are so annoying as their voices change and they are growing so fast that they take up so much more space in the castle.  For the next several days, I was distraught as was my king.  I paced the wall and he crowed until he was nearly voiceless.  He still has 6 subjects to rule, but we want to be together.  When the Evil Keeper isn’t watching us from that lush paradise she considers her domain and won’t share with us, I have been scratching in a soft spot near the wall and finally, yesterday my tunnel was large enough to allow my escape back to my King.  My Buff Orpington subjects are too fat or too stupid to realize that they too can escape.  Last night I was able to rejoin my King.  But alas, the Evil Keeper blocked my tunnel and now I am stuck in the smaller Palace and yard and one of my subjects is studying to be the new Queen of the Castle.  I fear my behaviors may result in my being banned to exile in freezer camp soon.”

What the Queen doesn’t realize, is that as soon as the teenagers are a few weeks older and the Palace hens are exiled, that Cogburn will rejoin his new Queen in the Castle and the Palace will be cleaned and prepared for 15 young subjects destined also for freezer camp.

Spring has come to the mountains, finally!

We are enjoying mountain spring at last.  Days that are mild enough for long sleeves or a light sweater, nights still cold enough for a coat, but signs abound that Old Man Winter has finally moved south, way south.


Peach blossoms and green grass.


Garlic growing in the garden beds.

On one of my surveys of the outside of the house, I have found many Preying Mantis egg cases, two on one of the spent deck plants from last year.



They will be carefully cut off and placed in the new plants on the deck and we will try to catch the day they begin to emerge.  It is interesting to watch the tiny 1/2″ long critters creeping around on the plant leaves.

Sunshine today and though it is only in the mid 50s outside, the 4 week old chicks got some sun time.


They are just past the dinosaur stage and look to have nearly all of their feathers.  When out in the sun, they jump and flap, chase each other around the water trough that was their brooder.  Today they went back into one of the wire dog kennels, but this time in the garage as they kept tipping the water and spilling it into the trough and the pine shavings were getting too soggy too quickly.

Tomorrow we are expecting heavy rain most all day, so Jim and I will go to the lumber yard and purchase the wood and a roll of chicken wire to create a coop divide.  By the end of the week, the chicks will occupy half of the coop, perhaps still with a heat lamp for another week or so and the other half of the coop will be the two Buff Orpington hens and the Americana hen. Cogburn and the rest of his harem will be moved at night into the temporary pen and chicken tractor, tricked out with a new nesting box to keep them separate from the chicks and to isolate them until the day in July or August when they will be permanently removed from the flock.

After a few weeks of adjustment and a bit more size, the coop divider will be removed and the chicks will have to learn the pecking order with the three hens that we will be keeping.